January 18, 2007 |
European and North American gamers, have we got a bit of cheery news for you. Blizzard, the collection of geniuses behind the wildly popular World of Warcraft epic, have unleashed Burning Crusade, one of the most anticipated expansion packs to any game in history, upon our worlds. Yep, worlds. We’ve got two of ‘em. Real and unreal. One’s got warlocks and all that type; the other one’s got you in it. Nifty, eh?
If you were one of the first to arrive at your local game shop, whatever continent you may reside upon, you were probably fortunate enough to grab a limited edition copy of the expansion pack, complete with deluxe artwork, a making-of DVD, and some other stuff too. The BBC reported that people queued outside stores. Then more queued. A lot of fans came out to celebrate the release.
Blizzard alleges that it has gained a following of 8 million subscribers (One is required to purchase the game, then pay a monthly fee to gain access.), which is a lot, by any standards, really.
What keeps the many millions coming back on a regular basis is not rich graphics, though for such a vast network Blizzard does seem to keep their bar for quality notched fairly high up. It’s gameplay, the near limitless exploration the average player can do with one’s time in-game (Time does seem to stretch a great deal in places like World of Warcraft, wouldn’t you agree?), the parallels with real-world interactions, and the act of living fantasy-based selves through an alter ego, an alias, a character. You’re having fun, but you’re not isolated, as you typically would feel while running through levels of Doom back in the ‘90s.
World of Warcraft didn’t revolutionize the gaming world. It only took a premise – races advance themselves best they can (overseen by the player) and battle it out for turf, cred, even just for kicks – and made the gamer in charge of one being. Seems quite a simple move, but it was perhaps the most significant one made by Blizzard, ever.
War need not be a part of this world. It can be, but more than a singular set of keyboard and mouse needs to execute such an effort. There’s a lot of commotion over World of Warcraft because choice does reside with the masses. Things can stay peaceful, or they can get ugly. Before this iteration of the Warcraft franchise, it was like playing chess, in which you saw everything from afar. In WoW, you see the swordplay. It makes for some interesting visuals. It also makes for much more interesting interplay between subscribers.
There’s no doubt that the pay-to-play restriction on World of Warcraft has turned away a great many potential parties. If Blizzard did away with the monthly fee, the fanbase would likely double in 12-months’ time. I would very much consider the cost of the boxed game if no additional tariffs were tacked onto the investment. But bills are bills, and one can only deal with so many before the line has to be drawn. It’s unfortunate that Blizzard requires a regular visit to one’s coin jar, but the charges could equally be taken to be a firewall against bad blood. In other words, how many troublemakers would pay $10 or so every month to stir unrest amongst the commoners in WoW? My feeling tells me it isn’t many.
The dedicated will flock to engage as the first to experience Burning Crusade; others will follow, some players will drop out, more will likely enter, however. This bodes well for Blizzard, as the continuous revenue stream ensures that the development cycle continues undisturbed and that the right amount of attentive administration to the game and its citizens makes abuses a rarity. World of Warcraft is certainly one of the most complex and well-done centers for entertainment to come to any platform. I’m sure it would surprise few to see Burning Crusade become one of the best-selling expansions to date.